Should we trust the search engine for a medical diagnosis? This is what the doctors say

Most people all over the world tend to do a quick Google search whenever they experience certain symptoms that are synonymous with common illnesses, seasonal or not. This leads to an avalanche of disturbing results, which makes them feel even more stressed. This can be counterproductive and even dangerous for their health. That is why doctors advise against self-diagnosis.

General practitioners at Fortis Hospital in Mulund, Dr Sanjay Shah and Dr Pradip Shah, share with indianexpress.com that the digital revolution has changed many aspects of our lives, especially in the way we obtain health-related information, as it is readily and freely available. “Previously, 1 in 10 patients searched for health information on the Internet, but today that number has grown to 9 in 10,” they say.

This is especially true now, in times of a pandemic, when people are looking for ways to making hand sanitizers at home, and even looking for symptoms to see if they have contracted the virus. Ironic and dangerous!

The risk of misdiagnosis, overdiagnosis or underdiagnosis

“More often than not, the self-diagnosis points to something more frightening. This can lead to misdiagnosis or overdiagnosis. For example, if you search for ‘headaches’ you will probably find about 20 results showing different interpretations of headaches, each more frightening than the next. Chances are your headache is something small, but Internet research shows signs of a cancerous tumor or other neurological problem.

“Ultimately you will panic and that can lead to high stress levels. Self-medication involves pharmacological risks which can lead to serious adverse effects. Sometimes you would even underdiagnose yourself, which could have a serious long-term impact on quality of life or worse, death, ”doctors warn.

Know the “cyberchondria”

Cyberchondria refers to a person’s anxiety about their health that is created by excessive use of the internet to search for medical information. Doctors say this has recently become a problem, “as people resort to researching what the internet has to say about their health and well-being.” “People with cyberchondria tend to misinterpret normal body changes and minor physical symptoms as signs of serious illness or illness. For many people with health anxiety, the fear can become so severe that it can interfere with work and relationships.

Seek help from a healthcare professional

“We meet patients with a whole list of questions about their symptoms and their condition. Some patients come up with a diagnosis they’ve already made using the Internet. And some are accompanied by lab reports and medical investigations, also the result of online research.

“Of course we would call them empowered patients, but quite often these people show a lack of confidence in the health advice offered by doctors. We need to understand that no technology or Internet research can completely replace professional medical help, ”they say.

Things to keep in mind

* Anyone can post content online
* Look at online research as a starting point, not the final answer
* Search for information on reliable websites such as health clinics, hospital websites, reputable health magazines and publications
* Don’t delay actual care from healthcare professionals
* Do your research online, then write down your questions, call your doctor or a local health center and talk to someone who knows how to tie all the pieces together

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